Journey To Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat
Scenic Day Trip From Chiang Mai Thailand
Thailand is home to untold thousands of Buddhist Temples or Wats. Visitors to Chiang Mai have ample opportunity to to visit the many temples within the city. But for those who would like to explore a bit of the Thai countryside and visit a very unique Buddhist Temple, a Journey to Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat can be a great change of pace – a scenic day trip adventure through mountains and forests to a very different type of temple complex located at the tip top of a mountain peak.
The map below shows the location of Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat relative to Chiang Mai and Lampang.
Use the map below to zoom in / out and view the area in Thailand.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat is a bit off the beat track. Located in a mountainous area and not easy to access, it is less well known and less visited by foreign travelers and tourists. Due to it’s distance from Chiang Mai it is not included on any general tour itineraries. And there is no direct bus or train service. Visitors from Chiang Mai need to make a determined effort to visit the area and will need to arrange their own transportation. Rental cars and motor scooters are options if you are experienced with Thailand traffic and driving on mountain roads. Otherwise the best option is to hire a car and driver for the day which is what I did. For more on that see the “My Day Trip” section at the end.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat is a little over a 2 1/2 hour drive east from Chiang Mai. Travelers have the choice of three main routes, shown on the map below, to make the journey. Route A is a southern route taking what is referred to in the area as the “Super Highway.” It runs mostly through valleys in the mountainous area,heading southeast to Lampang and then turning northward. At 165 km It is the longest route in terms of distance traveled but is the quickest route taking an estimated 2 hours and 29 minutes. The route is quick but is less scenic and involves lots of highway travel with lots of trucks and traffic.
Routes B and C follow a more northerly path through the mountains and the national park. These routes are definitely not “Super Highways.” (I should note that there are various deviation routes, offshoots of Route B and C which your driver might also use depending on interests and itineraries.) Once outside of Chiang Mai they quickly become narrow 2 lane roads which wind, and zig zag their way up, into, and over the mountains. They pass through a number of small villages. The mountains in the area are covered in lush green foliage of all types. Red poinsettias grow wild along the road side. Coffee beans grow in the hills. At some points the greenery and growth open to give expansive views of the valleys below. While these routes take a bit longer they are much more scenic and interesting.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat is a relatively new temple / stupa complex by Buddhist standards. It was built high on these mountain peaks in the Jae Hom District of Thailand by a Lampang Monk approximately 13 years ago. With the help of 46 workers carrying materials up the mountain, it took approximately 2 years to complete construction.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat is located at the peak of a mountain. It is certainly a unique and scenic location – but not an easy site to get to. It is not possible to drive to the temple. Arriving visitors can drive a small distance upward from the flat farmland of the Thung Thung Valley at the mountain’s base to a lower entrance area where there is a large and dust car park. The area also has several shops selling trinkets, offerings, and food. It’s a place to grab a snack either before or after your visit to the top of the mountain.
From the car park, if you look upward and to the west at the very top peaks of the mountain, you can see your final destination. In the image below you can just make out the white dots at the peaks of the mountain in the center. These white dots are the stupas of the temple. And, yes indeed, it is a long way up.
SHOW THAILAND SOME LOVE!I
Once you’ve arrived at the car park it’s time to step up to the ticket booth and pay the admission fee. The main building at this parking area is a large open sided structure. There you will find the ticket booth and a loading area where visitors climb aboard vehicles which will take you further up the mountain.
The Total Admission Ticket charge actually includes three different fees – Admission, Transportation, and Location Maintenance. Visitors must pay all three fees so I’m not sure why they break these out separately at the ticket office. The Total Admission Ticket Cost –
- Thai Adult – 90 baht
- Thai Child – 40 baht
- Foreign Adult – 270 baht
- Foreign Child – 170 baht
After purchasing your ticket, find a truck and climb aboard. ( You may have to wait until a truck returns to the loading area but it won’t be long. ) Once your truck is full ( Again, there may be a brief wait) you are off, up the mountain. Be sure to hold on. The grade is very steep at times and and bit bumpy. But the road is paved and the pace is rapid but not too much so. (I’ve taken a similar ride up the mountain at Golden Rock in Myanmar and it was much more of a thrilling experience – much steeper, unpaved, much faster, and much more of an adrenaline pumping adventure if you are into that kind of thing.)
After a few minutes of bouncing uphill travel, your covered truck ride comes to an end, mid way up the mountain at a level staging area. After disembarking you can walk around and recover from the ride. Stretch your legs. Enjoy the scenery.
There’s a little shop at the mid point area where you can take a break, have a drink and take in the view of the valley, now far below.
After you catch your breath from the ride up to this point its time to push on. You are not yet at the top of mountain. The actual Wat with it’s many Stupas lies much further up the mountain. But from here you must walk and climb. Also, be aware that there are no restrooms or shops beyond this staging area so, if needed, use the restrooms here and buy some water or snacks at the small shop before starting your final ascent.
As you head out from the mid point area you will encounter the sign shown below. Only 840 meters to go. Doesn’t sound bad, at least until you realize that most of that distance is an upward / vertical 840 meters. Deep breath. Climbing starts here.
From the mid point staging area the walk and climb to the top takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Most of it involves climbing stairs which are rather narrow, meaning that much of the climbing is a single file affair. There are, fortunately, many places to stop and rest and let those faster climbers move on past you. The climb is not all that difficult if you take a slow and steady pace.
There is relatively little level ground at the top. When first completing the stair climb visitors emerge onto a small arrival area – a flat open space, shaded with trees. As with many temple complexes, there are several bells as well as a large gong. Feel free to step up and strike them – 3 strikes is the standard. This small area is a good place to rest, catch your breath (again), and maybe have a sip of water or a snack if you have brought something with you.
Several additional sets of stairs lead upward, off of the arrival area. They lead to slightly higher shrines which offer some amazing views.
While not accessible to the public, from the upper viewing areas visitors can see that many of the craggy peaks are topped with small stupas.
The view of the Thung Thung Valley below is quite impressive.
The journey to Wat Chaloem Phra Kia, the “Sky Pagoda”, is an interesting and enjoyable day trip from Chiang Mai or Lampang. The temple is very unique and offers a change of pace from the many other temple complexes in Thailand. If you enjoy getting off the well worn tourist track then a visit to Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat might be just the thing for you.
MY DAY TRIP – For my own Journey to Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat I hired a car and driver / guide, arranging to travel via northern routes – taking Route C to the Wat and then returning via a variation of Route B. (Unfortunately I was unable to find the exact roads on Google Maps.). The route we took allowed us to make several short but pleasant stops at a water fall and hot springs area in the National Park.
Nanny Nattanan was my driver / guide for the day. She is a very pleasant and knowledgeable young lady who speaks some basic English. She has an excellent car for travel and is a safe and courteous driver. You can get more information from her links below.
Visit Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat ……..
…………… And Enjoy The Adventure!
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